The MCU movies drive me nuts. I like most of the MCU movies.
I tend to hold differing, disparate views a good chunk of a time but these are two contradictory points I don’t reconcile easily. I outright love Iron Man, Guardians of The Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther. I despise Captain America: Civil War AKA Bullshit Avengers and Iron Man 2. Thor: The Dark World is just okay and Avengers 2 is bizarre. (And interesting because of that.) I like everything else I’ve seen. I haven’t seen Infinity War because I know I’ll hate it. And why I haven’t seen some stand-alones like Doctor Strange… well, I’m actively trying to resist the process of these movies, of being loudly manipulated into enjoying the blockbuster that cost hundreds of millions to produce and sell, where the script was partly manufactured by a writer’s room of veteran script doctors and it’s resulted in a film that tries to appeal to as many conscious human beings as possible. That is to say it will be probably be, in the aesthetic sense, good. But I don’t know if that means most of these movies have souls – by which I mean a strong individual self, a unique power. If they do, as I believe of Panther and Ragnarok, it was an accident.
And I don’t mean to sound like a cranky bastard when I write all of this. Many films I outright love are manipulative, cost hundreds of millions, and are universal in their approach to storytelling. But those films didn’t have pre-made action sequences or have to fit awkwardly in a cinematic universe. Those movies aren’t as mechanistically designed to make me love them and buy their merchandise. The MCU, and the cinematic universes that have come after (usually crashing into oblivion because Kevin Feige is genuinely good at what he does) have encouraged an assembly line approach to franchise films. Make the semi-CGI visual sequences before the director ever says “Action”, put a room of writers together to make polished and standard scripts that won’t freak out executives with subversive ideas, weigh down each film with in-universe hints and teases, and hire indie directors who’ll always says yes to producers. Ta-da, you have a series of films that make a permanent profit. No surprises! Nothing too interesting to say! Hooray…
And my having this view, after years as a superhero and comic book geek and being very excited by the whole concept of a Marvel universe, is weird. Can’t I just be happy seeing the Hulk and Thor on the same screen and quit whining? There’s still a novelty in Iron Man insulting Captain America after years of superheroes in their own isolated corners, I’ll say that. And I’ll always be happy for the kids seeing these movies and loving Hawkeye or Ant-Man. But then what good is a universe if the experiences within can seem so empty, without purpose other than commercial profit? What’s the point of Ant-Man beyond “then this event happened, then this, etc.”? Even the after-credits scenes are all ads asking us to pay again for the next product, so we can see another ad for the next product. No one can even die in most of these things because they have to die in the crossover event, not when the story requires it.
In the end, 80 percent of these films are a mostly delicious, briefly sustaining junk food. Little kids love them, adults love them. I can eat and enjoy them. I know what it is, I know how much it’s trying to appeal to me without giving me anything new or satisfying. Maybe that’s a bad thing, maybe not. Maybe I should be happy with how much contentment it gives others. But there’s something wrong with the taste here, and I know that with every bite. I don’t just want a candy bar. I want a meal.